Damien Kayat previews the 2023 edition of the DP World Tour’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic taking place at Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis Course.
2022/2023 DP World Tour
Hero Dubai Desert Classic
The Majlis Course, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, UAE
Victor Perez won the first Rolex Series event of the year in scintillating fashion, making a clutch bunker shot on the 17th to win his third DP World Tour title.
The win catapulted Perez into second in the current Ryder Cup standings. He is putting himself into an extremely strong position for that contest outside Rome later this year.
Dubai Desert Classic
The Middle East swing- and Rolex Series- continues this week with the 34th edition of the Dubai Desert Classic. First staged in 1989, the Dubai Desert Classic was the first event staged on the Arabian Peninsula.
It was elevated to Rolex Series status last year (a nice fringe benefit of the new sponsorship deal with the Dubai-based DP World). The tour also welcomes back arguably its most famous ever export: Rory McIlroy.
The current World No.1 may need a strong performance with a surging Jon Rahm in hot pursuit.
The Majlis Course
Apart from the 1999 and 2000 editions, the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club has hosted every renewal of this event.
Designed by Karl Litten and opened in 1988, the Majlis course is a typically exposed desert layout.
It is a little shorter than last week’s Yas Links and features a number of interesting dog legs. The big hitters have found success here.
But it’s probably hitting greens that has proved the strongest indicator of success at Majlis. 12 of the last 17 winners have ranked inside the top 5 in GIR.
This is also connected to the fact that the putting surfaces- recently relaid to Bermuda TifEagle- are pretty flat and speedy. There are putts to be made out there and you have to give yourself chances out there with your irons.
As with any exposed desert track, there will be wild fluctuations in scores depending on the wind. Keep an eye out for strong links proponents should the wind pick up.
Rory McIlroy’s first win as a professional came here way back in 2009. He has finished inside the top ten here in his eight subsequent visits.
While he loves this venue, his last professional appearance came when he finished fourth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship (more than two months ago).
The combustible Tyrell Hatton also possesses excellent course form and is fresh off a respectable top 10 at Yas Links. Victor Perez and Min Woo Lee will look to resume their rivalry from last week.
Elsewhere, European stalwarts such as Fleetwood and Lowry add some razzmatazz to proceedings. There are also a smattering of LIV professionals looking to gain some valuable world ranking points this week.
I’m slightly disappointed that the likes of defending champion Viktor Hovland and Matt Fitzpatrick haven’t chosen to support the tour this week. Still, it’s never boring when Rory is in town.
2022: Victor Hovland (-12) *playoff
2021: Paul Casey (-17)
2020: Lucas Herbert (-9) *playoff
2019: Bryson Dechambeau (-24)
2018: Li Haotong (-23)
2017: Sergio Garcia (-19)
To Win Outright
Rory McIlroy 32/10 | Tyrell Hatton 12/1 | Tommy Fleetwood 18/1 | Shane Lowry 18/1 | Min Woo Lee 22/1
Adrian Meronk- To Win 30/1 | To Place 13/2
Adrian Meronk has started the year in a similar vein to how he finished 2022. He holed the winning putt in the Hero Cup. He then followed that up with a 10th-place finish in Abu Dhabi. Meronk won the Irish Open in July and Australian Open last month. Meronk is a superior driver who will be licking his lips at the prospect of four reachable par 5’s and two drivable par 4’s. He was brilliant on debut last year, finishing behind Hovland, McIlroy and Bland in 4th place.
Henrik Stenson- To Win 80/1 | To Place 17/1
You have to love Stenson at these odds (especially after Padraig Harrington’s top 5 showing last week). A current LIV Golf champion, Stenson is a supreme ball striker who is obviously in the twilight of his golfing career. But he is a real course specialist who remains an insanely brilliant iron player. He won on this course way back in 2007. But over the last 15 years he has a further six top-eight finishes. This includes 2nd and 3rd place finishes. The LIV Golf practitioners are unlikely to meet the same resistance in this part of the world that they do in Europe or Great Britain. They could actually thrive this week.
The Man to Beat- Min Woo Lee- To Win 22/1 | To Place 48/10
I really think that Min Woo Lee is starting to find something special. Since missing the cut at the Italian Open, he has form figures of 3-3-9-12-4-3. He just came agonisingly close to taking Victor Perez to a playoff in Abu Dhabi. He was poor on debut here but he was playing some terrible golf at the time. This set-up should suit him to a tee. He hits the ball a mile and can be absolutely deadly with his irons.